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Green Mansions: A Romance of the Tropical Forest

Chapter VII
With the return of consciousness, I at first had a vague impression that I was
lying somewhere, injured, and incapable of motion; that it was night, and
necessary for me to keep my eyes fast shut to prevent them from being blinded
by almost continuous vivid flashes of lightning. Injured, and sore all over, but
warm and dry--surely dry; nor was it lightning that dazzled, but firelight. I began
to notice things little by little. The fire was burning on a clay floor a few feet from
where I was lying. Before it, on a log of wood, sat or crouched a human figure.
An old man, with chin on breast and hands clasped before his drawn-up knees;
only a small portion of his forehead and nose visible to me. An Indian I took him
to be, from his coarse, lank, grey hair and dark brown skin. I was in a large hut,
falling at the sides to within two feet of the floor; but there were no hammocks in
it, nor bows and spears, and no skins, not even under me, for I was lying on
straw mats. I could hear the storm still raging outside; the rush and splash of rain,
and, at intervals, the distant growl of thunder. There was wind, too; I listened to it
sobbing in the trees, and occasionally a puff found its way in, and blew up the
white ashes at the old man's feet, and shook the yellow flames like a flag. I
remembered now how the storm began, the wild girl, the snake-bite, my violent
efforts to find a way out of the woods, and, finally, that leap from the bank where
recollection ended. That I had not been killed by the venomous tooth, nor the
subsequent fearful fall, seemed like a miracle to me. And in that wild, solitary
place, lying insensible, in that awful storm and darkness, I had been found by a
fellow creature--a savage, doubtless, but a good Samaritan all the same--who
had rescued me from death! I was bruised all over and did not attempt to move,
fearing the pain it would give me; and I had a racking headache; but these
seemed trifling discomforts after such adventures and such perils. I felt that I had
recovered or was recovering from that venomous bite; that I would live and not
die--live to return to my country; and the thought filled my heart to overflowing,
and tears of gratitude and happiness rose to my eyes.
At such times a man experiences benevolent feelings, and would willingly bestow
some of that overplus of happiness on his fellows to lighten other hearts; and this
old man before me, who was probably the instrument of my salvation, began
greatly to excite my interest and compassion. For he seemed so poor in his old
age and rags, so solitary and dejected as he sat there with knees drawn up, his
great, brown, bare feet looking almost black by contrast with the white wood-
ashes about them! What could I do for him? What could I say to cheer his spirits
in that Indian language, which has few or no words to express kindly feelings?
Unable to think of anything better to say, I at length suddenly cried aloud:
"Smoke, old man! Why do you not smoke? It is good to smoke."
He gave a mighty start and, turning, fixed his eyes on me. Then I saw that he
was not a pure Indian, for although as brown as old leather, he wore a beard and
moustache. A curious face had this old man, which looked as if youth and age
had made it a battling-ground. His forehead was smooth except for two parallel
lines in the middle running its entire length, dividing it in zones; his arched
 
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